The lavender drove me crazy !

  • 16 July 2019

For years I’ve wanted to paint the lavender and for years I’ve put it off. I have an excuse : when their flowering begins, the terraces demand me !

If I don’t give in soon  I’ll never do it.

Dear friends & favourite models, please excuse my digression : this year is the year ! So you won’t see me on the terraces for most of the Summer 2019.

In exchange I offer you this blog of my artistic outings. Imagine you’re sitting next to me in my rainbow coloured Jeep and let yourself be taken along the roads and lanes.

Mind you knees, there’s a lot of material in the car !

Off we go ! Let’s wander together around the high plains of Provence in the air perfumed with the burnt straw of the lavender distilleries with their  tall rusty chimneys.

Ah ! The terraces made me fall in love with you but the lavender has driven me crazy ! It hardly took two days for me to realize.

Tuesday 2 July

Day one, on the Claparèdes plateau : from Sivergues to Saignon, via Buoux, this is where I spent 10 years of my life. I always feel emotional when I go back there.

I painted this picture :

It’s near the farm called Escudelettes where Fernand Laugier used to live. This old peasant who lived like a lone wolf sometimes used to come and share our mid-day meal. He would bring his “cacha” : a cheese of his own making, using left-over bits of cheese to which he added eau-de-vie.. The emmanations made our eyes fill with tears.

Wednesday 3 July

To Valensole plateau ; lavender paradise!

Departure at 5 am under the sky still black. My aim is to see the sun come up in 50 minutes. Here I am at the end of a windy road which leads to the plain before the dream-like spectacle of a purple sea.

Another, less pleasant, surprise awaits me : people – most of them Japanese – are already congregated like flies at the side of the road  armed with cameras. No way I can stay there to paint. As the best vantage points have been taken, I follow the tracks through the fields. Lots of No Entry signs bar my way. But I manage to find an interesting view along a very steep stoney lane where I’m protected from tourists.

First painting :

Then the second one, done more quickly, a panorama :

Hm, a Japanese couple  brave the stoney lane. She is wearing a white shirt and tight shorts, and carrying a pink parasol; he is wearing a pale blue costume  and carrying a big camera.

– How are you ? says the lady, posing for a photo, her hair swaying in the perfumed air.

– Fine thanks.

Meanwhile the man snaps me, click, click, click.  Blood rushes to my head. I take my painting off the easel but too late. My picture is swallowed by the magic box ! I won’t be surprised to see it on Instagram one day.

So at the start of day three, I knew,  Because of their colour, their perfume of course but also –  witnessed by the Japanese lady with legs as thin as lavender stalks – because of the tourists. Since then I ignore Keep Out signs. Too bad for the peasant’s harvest, I chew three or four lavender stalks per day. Purple essence flows in my veins !

Thursday 4 July

Back to the Claparèdes plateau so dear to my heart. Here I can get over the Valensole incident.

I painted 2 pictures :

Regain, once a youth hostel, with an open-air cinema and a collection of black and white films used to be managed by François Morenas. This small thin man, his face wrinkled like  the root of an evergreen oak, used to ramble off the beaten track across the Luberon. Like all the people I’ve met in this region, he has a passion for life.

Let’s not get upset by this madness; let’s go on a bit farther towards Auribeau. I climb a hillside. From here I can look down across the plain . Et hey presto ! the start of a second painting :

Friday 5 July

To Sault.

I made this  painting at the roadside at Ferrassières.

It’s hot. A pretty peasant girl came to see me.

– We have to keep an eye on the flowers because there are bee hives around here, she says.

Did she, like me,  dream of lavender  last night, or of painting or of the sky ? 

Saturday 6 July

I really should have a beak from my artistic pursuit – stay at Les Bastides and have breakfast with Christine, but I am called by the lavender.

– Hey, get up !

– Saturday is your day off, isn’t it ?

– There’s no day off for artists !

I set off for the nearby plateau with an idea of doing a painting of the car … I dreamt of it last night.

But first this scenerywith Mount Ventoux in the background seen from a hilltop of lavender.

Here’s a photo of the Jeep, become the symbol of my madness.

Monday 8 July

Early departure for Les Bastides . I go back to Ferrassières as the idea of staying in this place appeals to me.

First of all I need to get through the valley they call “The valley of thieves“, then arrive at Apt, drive past the “Bar des voyageurs” … ah, memories …!

Once there I did this painting :

Then this other by going on Hautes-Ferrassières a lost country
where seems to live only God.

Wednesday 10 July

(I got the car ready on Tuesday for a 2-day excursion)

When I got to the hotel I did this view of the village.

Then this one of a view across the fields.

Then this other across fields:

Thursday 11 July

Before starting this morning, I met a group of bee-keepers. The bees are getting agressive. I was stung on the cheek and the forehead . Quite strange. I wondered if it was my hearing-aid that disturbed them. If only they were disturbed by cameras – we’d be saved from  all the invasive tourists !

Sault in the morning :

I finally got proof in the evening : back at the hotel I went to contemplate for the last time the  deepest  purple  I’ve ever seen. A bee started to buzz around my ears. I understood : they’re sensitive to electronics. So tomorrow I’ll leave my hearing-aid behind when I go to the lavender fields.I’ll paint in silence and we’ll see what happens.

If, that is, I don’t go completely crazy !


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